Multicultural class cook-off!

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Disclaimer: It wasn’t actually a cook off and Gordon Ramsay did not attend (sorry to disappoint). It was, however, a class in which we all cooked different traditional meals based off of where each one of us were traveling to for our internships! Seeing as mine is in the Netherlands, it was only suiting that Bailey, Zayna and I cook some good ol’ Dutch food! Other countries featured were the Philippines, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia!

We all split up into our groups and I felt like I was in cupcake wars for a second trying to grab the stuff that we needed. Our recipe was essentially mashed potatoes but not the ones I am used to! Our process went as follows!

We used almost a bag of potatoes and put them into two separate pots to boil and threw a bag of carrots in. We then sautéed a pre-minced onion and waited for our potatoes to be done. The moment came and we emptied out potatoes and peeled half of them (fun fact, if you rinse them under cold water immediately after boiling, the skin falls right off. Who knew!).

Two of us took mashing duty and we added in the onions, fried up some chives and added those in too. Let’s not forget butter (and lots of it) plus a little salt and pepper and bam! We were done! We then cooked up some sausage and left it on a side dish in case anyone did not want meat!

Our classmates kept coming up and asking us what we were making and they eventually deemed it “Stamppot” and it actually is something they eat all the time (score!). And turns out, it is actually very very delicious!

The feast began and there was a wide variety of foods available such as : veggie spring rolls, beef spring rolls, some form of cookie, beijing beef (or at least that is exactly what it tasted like), a fried veggie tortilla looking thing and many other spices & dips! Aside from a full belly, I learned how important it is to research and learn the country you are visiting, especially their food! I would’ve never of thought to make a dish like this and I am so so glad I did!

The “Uni”

Today I decided that I wanted to talk about my courses. Sophia, my friend from the United Kingdom, refers to our university as the Uni so I decided to embrace my inner British and follow by her example. Even though the dutch refer to it as a university as well, it is all well and sounds fancier.

The education system (specifically second-hand as they call it here) is entirely different from what I was raised with. I have talked about this before but I never once addressed how the set up, content, and even buildings are different!

Let’s begin with their desks. They like to have an outer square of desk that are just individual tables with chairs. Once this is formed, all other desks are placed on the inside of giant square and that’s where people that are late sit. I don’t know if that is because everyone seeks to sit in the back and by the outlets like I do but we all seem to be on the same page: avoid the center.

Secondly, the university is divided up into different buildings. This I am used to but in a different sense. I’m used to there being a Nursing Building, a Liberal Arts Building, a Science building but nope: I’m in the international building where every international course is held. This building I am in is divided into sections A, C, B and D. These are not in order because they are not placed in order, all the “sub sections” have no rhyme nor reason to them and it took me a solid few days to figure out where each one was.

Finally, the courses. We were not given a syllabus, an assignment layout or even anything much more than where to find our first class. From there, it was a whirlwind because, guess what, they still didn’t give us any of those things. I’ve had to figure out where my classes are by deciphering an online “Rooster” as they call it, figure out that each class is taught by someone new and they will all talk about different topics, and they won’t tell you about the assignments until that day and then act all surprised when we have the confused student expression on our face.

I talked earlier about dealing with the unknown and this, this is it. After two weeks, I can confidently say I know where A,C, B and D are at and while the location of my courses change every day, at least I know which building I’m in.

Dealing with things outside of my control

While studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, this once in a lifetime opportunity inevitably comes with challenges. That’s the point of going to a new country: to step outside of what you know and embrace the unknown. Right?

I knew this before going into it and it was also why I wanted to go. I am very much a “Type A” personality in it that, I have a nick for organizing, planning, and having 3 different backups in case my original idea went wrong. It gives me joy and satisfaction knowing that I have backups for my backups! This being said, life is not always something that even my three backups can account for.

Since being abroad, I had been without internet, charged up $50 of data, gotten lost, had to buy a bicycle, figured out how to navigate a train, bus and school system, cooking every meal and deciphering grocery stores. I calculate before every purchase how much it is going to charge me in euros because the USD is worth less. I listen to the Dutch’s impressive English but am actively deciphering some sentences where it is fractured and even I cannot understand.

More recently, I am figuring out how to manage being comfortable with not always knowing the answer. I wait days for a response from a faculty member or department at my school, am casually waiting on immigration to get back to me about my visa to stay longer in this country, and have to learn how to structure a course by myself as the classes here do not come with a syllabus. I guess the point of this is that the uncertainty and “free flowing” attitude in the Netherlands is my biggest challenge so far.

No matter how much fear and anxiety this unknown lifestyle has caused me, I’m surprising myself with how flexible I have been. Even though that visa determines if I can come back to Europe once I graduate, I have learned that I cannot rush their response and therefore have no control over it. I have spent so much time of my life worrying about the next step and did not even know I could enjoy the present moment until I met Brandon who taught me that worrying about something does not change the outcome. I’m utilizing that immensely over here and it is paying off because no matter how many times things go wrong, something else is bound to go right.